ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A new neurological study which finds National Football League retirees are more likely to have depression and cognitive problems is welcomed by a local neurologist who specializes in head injuries.

As the Washington University site director for the NFL Player Care program, Dr. David Brody said he is seeing more and more former players come in with problems.

“It’s sort of rising all the time, it’s getting more and more common for people to come in,” he said. “The word is getting out and we’re actually able to help a lot of people. It’s not just evaluation, there are actually a lot of treatable conditions that a lot of the retired players have that we can really improve their quality of life quite a bit in ways that they often didn’t expect.”

The study, published Jan. 7 in JAMA Neurology (formerly known as the Archives of Neurology), found retired NFL players were more likely to report cognitive impairment and depression and show physical brain changes on an MRI scan compared to healthy individuals.

“NFL players may be more likely to develop cognitive impairments (problems with memory, naming and word finding) or depression as they age compared with the general population,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. John Hart Jr., medical science director at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Suspicions of a link between hard hits to the head and depression have grown in recent years following the suicide deaths of former NFL players including Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling and Junior Seau.

This new study is the first to make such findings in retired players who are still alive. Brody says more individualized studies need to be done to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis during the lifetime of an individual.

“Sometimes there are problems with thinking and memory, sometimes with mood and emotional control,” Brody said, describing the issues he sees in former players. “Sometimes it’s headaches, sometimes back pain and problems with coordination and balance, sometimes there are sleeping problems.”


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